Nine months ago, I started my yoga journey in an attempt to improve my physical health in terms of flexibility and strength. What I did not realise was how much more I was gaining in my mental and emotional health and how I was on the point of a new beginning: how to learn to love myself.
Yoga is a complete balance of mind, body and soul and in this journey, I am glad to have compiled this list that shows me how to love myself. By practicing yoga, I will talk about the most important three ways in which I learn to love myself.
How I Learn To Love Myself
#1. Be Kind To Yourself And Your Body (Physical)
Regardless of whether you are a new or advanced practitioner, a common mistake is to push your body to go beyond its capacity out of fear or pride. We push our bodies to go deeper even when our body is not ready. I am guilty of that when I first started off.
As it was my first lesson with a new instructor, I felt this irrational need to impress the instructor. When the instructor eventually led everyone into the Standing Split pose, I wanted to show her how “good” I was because I had a background in dance. This resulted in me nursing an injured hamstring for the next two months.
That said, it does not mean to completely relax and not challenge your body to be better. We grow when we break out of our comfort zone. The key point here is to listen to your body while finding the balance between pushing and holding back.
So, here’s lesson number one regarding how I learn to love myself: Be compassionate to yourself and your body. Practice Ahimsa (which means compassion or non-violence in Sanskrit) because we need to love our body and respect its limitations. We don’t push a baby to start running when he or she barely begins to crawl. Similarly, don’t push yourself to start running when you are learning to walk as you will only injure yourself.
#2. Create And Hold Positive Thoughts Of Yourself (Mental)
It is every new yoga practitioner’s fear to enter the class for the first time. Stepping onto the mat, you feel lost and sometimes even overwhelmed when you look around and see people stretching in contorted positions. (Although it doesn’t happen that often). Even if you are not new, it is natural to look around and start comparing yourself to others around, especially when you are unable to achieve the poses introduced during the class.
Too often than not, we fall into this trap of negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs. We sit in judgement of ourselves when we are unable to achieve what others have achieved.
Now comes lesson number two regarding how I learn to love myself: Watch and be aware of your thoughts whenever it arises to be one that is self-debilitating. We have to understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds, varying years of practice and have different bodies too. Don’t be so hard on yourself as everything is a journey. More importantly, our thoughts become our reality. If we think negatively of ourselves and our abilities, it will become the reality.
So here’s a tip: The next time you start to think something like “I am so lousy at so-and-so”, catch yourself and instead choose to think “I am not there yet, but I believe I will be with practice and in time!” The only limits we have are those we place on ourselves. These days, the thoughts that pass through my mind are those of self-love and self-affirmation. Whenever I start and end a yoga class, I choose a positive thought and hold on to the affirmation throughout my practice.
#3. Allow Yourself To Feel Good By Letting Go Of Feelings That Don’t Serve You (e.g. jealousy, resentment, frustration) (Emotional)
Because your thoughts can lead to feelings, it is important to recognise the emotion when you are feeling it. After we have recognised that, we just have to be with the emotion and then make the conscious choice to let it go.
For example, I can recognise my frustration of never being able to find my stability in the Half Moon Pose when everyone else around me seem to be statues. When I realised I am the only one who still have not found my balance, I become frustrated and panicky and it becomes a downward spiral of my emotions. Instead, I can pause and acknowledge my frustration. After doing so, I let go of it by not becoming attached to the outcome of achieving that pose but just doing the best to my ability.
These days, whenever I feel a negative emotion in me arise during my yoga practice, I acknowledge it and ask myself this question: “Does how I am feeling help me or harm me?“ This lesson of how I learn to love myself can also be translated into my daily life whenever I feel a negative emotion arises. If it harms me, I choose to let go of it. The key-word here is to CHOOSE. We always have a choice over our emotions, our thoughts and our actions.
There is also a really important aspect in this article that we must remember in order to apply the three ways of loving oneself. That is “Consciousness”. When we aren’t conscious of our thoughts, we will inevitably end up slipping into negative thought patterns which will translate into negative actions and emotions.
How we treat ourselves models to the world how to treat us. When we start to love ourselves in all aspects, it enables people to love us and eventually allow us to love others too. Yoga is an internal journey in an external world. There is so much internal growth and reflection that is needed even though it seems like a very external practice.
As each of you embark on your own journey, my wish for you is to practise and grow in self-love.
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